Effective physical treatment for chronic low back pain

C. G. Maher*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

92 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

It is now feasible to adopt an evidence-based approach when providing physical treatment for patients with chronic LBP. A summary of the efficacy of a range of physical treatments is provided in Table 1. (Table presented) The evidence-based primary care options are exercise, laser, massage, and spinal manipulation; however, the latter three have small or transient effects that limit their value as therapies for chronic LBP. In contrast, exercise produces large reductions in pain and disability, a feature that suggests that exercise should play a major role in the management of chronic LBP. Physical treatments, such as acupuncture, back school, hydrotherapy, lumbar supports, magnets, TENS, traction, ultrasound, Pilates therapy, Feldenkrais therapy, Alexander technique, and craniosacral therapy are either of unknown value or ineffective and so should not be considered. Outside of primary care, multidisciplinary treatment or functional restoration is effective; however, the high cost probably means that these programs should be reserved for patients who do not respond to cheaper treatment options for chronic LBP. Although there are now effective treatment options for chronic LBP, it needs to be acknowledged that the problem of chronic LBP is far from solved. Though treatments can provide marked improvements in the patient's condition, the available evidence suggests that the typical chronic LBP patient is left with some residual pain and disability. Developing new, more powerful treatments and refining the current group of known effective treatments is the challenge for the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-64
Number of pages8
JournalOrthopedic Clinics of North America
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes

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